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The Water Fountain Incident

Saturday March 09th 2013 - 6:51 PM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

Everything in SEAL Team BITES. From the minute you walk through the door everything around you is dangerous. The parachutes, dive gear, weapons and demolitions all have a nasty nip if you aren’t being careful. And the end result of doping o...ff for even a brief second can be "Catastrophic."

Outside of killing yourself, or worse yet, a buddy is the potential trouble, (punishment kind of trouble) you can find yourself in using that equipment. And I always said SEAL Team is the "Most Forgiving" unit in the Military because we’ve all had run-ins and made mistakes using our equipment.

All our Admirals and Master Chiefs have been "Spanked" a few times for doing something that seemed like a good idea at the time... Do something right and you learn nothing, do something wrong and you are educated by VOLUMES in SEAL Team... We learn from mistakes...

Hopefully the trouble you find yourself in is contained to SEAL Team and never leaves the Command. But the biggest trouble I’ve found myself in normally involves the US Army or the US Marine Corps and I’ve found myself in BIG trouble with both... Neither the Army or Marine Corps are known for their sense of humor and they have NONE when it comes to Navy SEALs.

Take the "Water Fountain Incident" for example...

I was running demolition training for a couple SEAL Platoons at an Army base a few hours away from Little Creek. I took a couple New Guy SEALs up a week before the Platoons arrived to "Set Up."

Much of "Set Up" in demolition training involves getting enough material for the Platoon to Blow Up.

You just can’t train in a bare field. You need metal, any kind of metal, and lot’s of it as each charge placed destroys that particular target and normally there is little, if anything, left for another charge.

My normal "Load Out" of demolitions for a single Platoon for one week of training was over a ton of various types of demolitions and we worked long hours, day and night for that week...

A ton of demolitions is a LOT...

To find my materials I’d head to the base dump. Not a trash dump, it was a place where EVERYTHING else was piled and stacked and free for the taking for training. From vehicles and old generators to file cabinets and bunk beds, it was all there.

The biggest problem was hauling and carrying the stuff...

Most demolition ranges are vast areas and littered with sharp metal from previous demolition training that spans DECADES. There is always a good clean up but you’ll never get everything picked up. One sure way to get a few flat tires is to drive off the roads on a demo range.

Bottom line... Most stuff you blow up needs to be light enough to carry by hand and placed as targets...

Most Operations in SEAL Team have us carrying some sort of demolitions. Breaching Charges, Claymore Mines or the typical "Standard Charge."

A Standard Charge was 1.5 pound block of C-4 Explosive. The block was cut in half and taped together with a "pig tail" of detonating cord rigged in a variety of ways in it. And much of my training was the classic "Demolition Raid" using Standard Charges.

The Demolition Raid involved assaulting a Target (shooting the place up) and sending pre planned teams to place charges on critical points. Generators, fuel supply, ammunition, radios, computers, anything that needed destroyed. One pair carried a large roll of detonating cord and they’d run through the target unspooling det-cord for all the pairs who’d then tie their Standard Charge on to the det-cord using the Pig Tail. Blasting caps were placed at the end of the det-cord and a 5-minute fuse was pulled.

When the caps detonated the entire field and all charges went together... It was AWESOME...

Anyhoo... Picking up at the dump my eye caught about 20 Water Fountains pushed together. The classic ones you had in school to get a drink of water; about four feet tall and light as a feather which surprised me.

They were perfect from their size and weight. I took everyone of them and loaded the truck.

On the range they were easy to carry and place and I configured them into a target for an easy daylight assault to work the Platoon bugs out before a larger, tougher night assault with all the bells and whistles...

The Platoon looked over the target, built charges and did a very simple brief on who was doing what and then they began their assault.

Taking mental notes so I could debrief them afterwards they placed all their charges well, pulled fuses and began to patrol back out. At 4:30 seconds everyone stopped and turned looking back at the Target and then came 5-4-3-2-1 BOOOOM...

It was a great shot but in seconds I began (everybody began) wondering "What the Hell is that "

"What the Hell is that," turned out to be why the Water Fountains were so light in the first place... I don’t manufacture Water Fountains, how the HELL would I know they are each packed tight with MILLIONS of tiny white styrofoam balls to keep the water cool.

20 of them produced enough snow to ski on and they were unsightly on the large open green range... You could NOT miss them and there was no way to hide or clean them up...

At the conclusion of training the range had to be inspected by the Army before we could leave to ensure "most" scrap was cleaned up and they could get anal about it sometimes.

A young sergeant shows up to inspect and clear us off the range. I made a point to have all the vehicles we had parked where he could see them filled with trash and scrap so he’d know we made a big effort.

He never saw the vehicles...

Instead, he stared for a moment at what looked like Mt. Kilimanjaro a hundred meters from us. Turning his head toward me I grinned like an idiot, shrugged my shoulder and said "Water Fountains."

"You’ll need to see the Range Officer," he said and he got in his truck and left...

The Range Officer was a portly retired Army guy who didn’t like me much. He didn’t like anybody much but he really didn’t like Navy guys and my frequent visits to explain myself and my actions worsened his ulcer I’m sure...

Special Forces dealing with Conventional troops never worked very well as everything we do is everything they don’t do and every rule they have is a rule we don’t have.

By the time I walked though the door of the Range Office everyone had heard the Water Fountain story and watched me as I walked to the Range Officers door.

Behind his desk his face was red, his glasses hung low on his nose and his hands were closed tightly together as he looked up at me. What he said surprised me but was just the difference between SEALs and Conventional troops. He’d spent his life in the Army and I’m sure had no idea what a "Demolition Raid" was or how to practice for one. Just no idea.




Comment by: Jim C
Monday February 23rd 2015 - 14:14 AM EST

.....because if water fountains need to be blown up, then by God the SEALs are gonna be the ones sent in to do it

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